To believe or not to believe? : The 10 Biggest Conspiracy Theories

The Ockham's razor theory holds that the least complicated explanation is probably the right one - but when something goes awry, curious and inquiring natures may seek to find a more intricate explanation than the party line will provide. When faced with mystery, we often discern complex hidden meanings and when we fail to find them in authoritative sources, we might choose to give weight to the whisperings and urban legends. And so, a conspiracy theory typically emerges from the rubble of an open-ended scandal – when there's dissatisfaction with the official account of a major world event or an ongoing operation, opposing and often scandalous theories emerge and grab hold of the collective imagination.

A conspiracy theory is generally centered around the vaguely mistrustful notion that a person, group of people or an organization may have knowingly covered up a phenomenon or an event that's likely to have some sort of political, social or economic impact. The notion of a conspiracy theory has developed negative connotations, often associated with wild hypotheses, weak reasoning and paranoia - although some authorities have explained how some well known conspiracy theories have reasonable logical consistency.

Some conspiracy theorists are fervent followers of these alternative hypotheses and some enjoy them for the simple intrigue of a good tale. Whether you find them believable or bizarre, the most widely held conspiracy theories are at least compelling.  For those who enjoy their current affairs with a side of scandal, we've compiled the ten conspiracy theories that are most dominant in popular culture.

10 Global warming is a hoax

While Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' showed us a shocking side to global warming, backed up by the warnings of scientists worldwide, certain conspiracy theories suggest that the idea of global warming is all an elaborate lie. What do conspiracy theorists say about the irrefutable facts - that the earth’s temperature is rising steadily? Those who stand by one extreme version of the theory that global warming is a hoax maintain that the global temperature is being elevated by technology created by the world’s most developed nations, who want to control and eventually decrease the world population. The United Nations, Al Gore and Maurice Strong are often accused by conspiracy theorists of encouraging the alleged myth that pollution and deforestation are behind the global warming crisis.

9 An unidentified flying object crashed in New Mexico

After Mac Brazel, ranch manager at Roswell, failed to identify crash debris near his property in 1947 he informed the local authorities. Upon investigation, the Roswell Army Air Field said, via a press release, that a ‘flying disc’ as well as some ‘alien bodies’ had been found at the site. However this claim was later retracted by the US military who told the public that the finding was actually a fallen water balloon that formed part of the secret Project Mogul - when microphones were placed in balloons to detect sound waves from Soviet atomic bomb tests. The contradiction led to conspiracy theorists suggesting that the American government was trying to cover up evidence related to the existence of UFOs and aliens. Today, Roswell is a popular tourist attraction for extraterrestrial enthusiasts.

8 Elvis Lives

Some conspiracy theorists believe that musical icon Elvis Presley is still alive. Thanks to numerous Elvis 'sightings' over the years and the misspelling of his middle name 'Aron' on his gravestone, some people are of the opinion that his death was an orchestrated and not real. There are several reasons that theorists cite for the alleged faked death – Elvis wanted to escape the limelight or he was being furnished with witness protection by the FBI because he was believed to have been a drug informant.

7 The Apollo Moon Landing in 1969 was staged

Even though this conspiracy theory has been debunked by most, a few ardent believers cite missing design blueprints, altered pictures and faulty recordings as proof of the staging. Theorists think the landing was staged by the United States to win the 'space race' against the Soviet Union and establish NASA  as the most reputed aeronautical organization in the world.

6 AIDS is a man-made disease

Medical researchers and scientific experts believe HIV originated from the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus, common in monkeys of western Africa. However, when the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome surveyed 500 African Americans in 2005, half of them blamed the government for creating the virus. Conspiracy theorists say that the government might have done so in order to control the population and target homosexuality and racial minority groups. The theory further holds that there a cure for AIDS exists but the government is holding it back for the same reasons.

5 Reptilian humanoids control the world

This is perhaps one of the most far-fetched of all the theories on our list. In a book written by David Icke in 1999, it was explained that most leaders in the world are in fact shape-shifting reptilian entities from another planet. 'The Biggest Secret' describes how these reptilian humanoids promote fear and hatred to start wars so that the world population reduces and they can continue to rule over mankind. Interesting.

4 Shakespeare didn't write his plays

According to some literary experts, this historical figure - the world’s most renowned playwright - may not have existed at all. Conspiracy theorists argue that William Shakespeare was only a pseudonym used by a group of writers, which is why his signature was inconsistent through his career. Another school of conspiracy theorists believes that he may have existed but the works that were published in his name were actually written by more elite writers like Francis Bacon or Christopher Marlowe. They cite Shakespeare's surprising lack of education as one of the main reasons for believing this theory.

3 The British Royalty killed Princess Diana

When their beloved princess died in a car crash due to the overzealous paparazzi in Paris, the British public were demanding answers. While some believe the Royals wanted Princess Di gone  because they believe she was pregnant with boyfriend Dodi Al-Fayed’s child and wanted to convert to Islam and marry him, others are of the opinion that Prince Charles wanted to get rid of Diana so he could justify his marriage to Camilla - with whom he was having an extramarital affair for years.

2 Lee Harvey Oswald was not the only one who shot JFK

John F Kennedy was shot in Dallas, while riding a presidential motorcade with his wife. While official accounts said that Oswald shot at the president from the Texas School Book Depository, people doubt the truth of the story as witness accounts suggest they heard gunshots from the opposite direction. In another strange twist, Oswald was shot and killed only two days later.  This led to much speculation over two killers being present on that day even though the authorities caught only one, perhaps intentionally. To add weight to this theory, the 'magic bullet' that killed JFK allegedly has an unusual - almost impossible - trajectory. The mafia, the CIA and Lyndon Johnson are often listed as the masterminds behind Kennedy’s murder and its consequent cover-up.

1 The American government was involved in the September 11th attacks

This is by far the most scandalous conspiracy theory and the single most searched conspiracy online. While there are several theories surrounding the attacks of 9/11, many people believe that the Bush administration had prior knowledge about the atrocity and did not act on it. Some radical theorists have also suggested that Bush himself orchestrated the entire incident; they believe Bush’s involvement was motivated by his desire to gain power more quickly and gain support to attack the Middle East. As opposed to official accounts, conspiracy theorists believe that planted explosives resulted in the demolition of the World Trade Centers, that no plane crashed into the Pentagon and Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania because it was shot down.

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